Rebecca J. Cole

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REBECCA J. COLE Physician and Founder Background Information A. Rebecca J. Cole was born on March 16, 1846 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania B. Neither of her parents are known in historical records. She was the second of five children in her family; she had two sisters: Sallie and Dora and two brothers: Hamilton and Joseph. Rebecca was born into a mulatto family- her ancestry was a mix of European and African. C. All five of the children received excellent educations, allowing them to obtain work other than the domestic service or manual labor fields in which most African Americans of that time were employed. Cole in particular excelled in school. She attended the Institute for Colored Youth located in Philadelphia. Quakers who struggled to teach the black youth to become teachers and scholars established this institution. D. Rebecca J. Cole was never married and had no children. Career Highlights A. After graduating in 1863, Cole briefly worked as a teacher before beginning medical school at the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania. In 1867, Cole graduated from medical school and became the first African American woman to earn her MD from the school. B. Shortly after medical school, Cole moved to New York City and joined the staff of the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, a hospital owned and operated by Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to earn her MD. C. Blackwell soon established the Tenement House Service. The service intended to promote health in overcrowded slums, populated by poor--mainly black--people, by sending out a "sanitary visitor" to teach basic hygiene and child care. Cole became one of the first "sanitary visitors" in the program and worked in this capacity for many years. D. After leaving Blackwell's hospital, Cole landed in Columbia, South Carolina where she practiced medicine briefly before moving on to Washington,
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